SQAS Improvement Plan Addresses European Third-Party Assessments

Jan. 1, 2001
A NEW plan has been initiated to improve the Safety and Quality Assessment Systems (SQAS) used by many European chemical companies to assess third-party

A NEW plan has been initiated to improve the Safety and Quality Assessment Systems (SQAS) used by many European chemical companies to assess third-party logistics service providers, including the trucking industry and tank cleaning facilities.

"It was time to review the program," said Jos Verlinden, European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) chairman. The chemical council developed and oversees SQAS. The system was prompted by the introduction of the Responsible Care program in Europe in 1990.

"The program needs closer central management to guarantee integrity," said Verlinden. He discussed key elements of the new plan at the European Petrochemical Association Logistics Meeting October 21-25, 2000, in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

"We are hopeful that more chemical companies will use the program as a risk management tool," he said. "To date, it is used primarily by major chemical companies."

Established in 1995 for the European trucking industry and in 1998 for tank cleaning facilities, the program utilizes independent inspectors. Chemical companies often require service providers to participate in the program. After inspections are completed, the inspector's original report remains with the service provider with copies going to the shipper for evaluation.

"Now, the whole system is paper," said Verlinden. To improve the information storage, the new plan calls for an Internet data base to hold the growing data. The inspector will upload the data compiled from the inspection, and the service provider will review and add comments before it is available to the shipper. Access will be restricted to chemical companies that are members of the program. To finance the data base costs, membership fees will be assessed.

Part of the new plan calls for setting up a training and qualification program for the 70 inspectors to improve the quality of the reports. The training will include a two-day course, written exam, personal interview, and an on-job review for recently hired inspectors.

A fourth element of the new plan calls for more active promotion of the SQAS program in order to recruit more participants. About 450 carriers in 15 European countries have been assessed since the program's inception. Assessments currently average about 80 to 90 per year.

An SQAS package consists of 500 questions and corresponding guidance notes for the independent inspector. The information is provided in seven languages. Typically, an SQAS questionnaire covers areas such as:

- Management policy, training, recruitment, and safety

- Health and environmental procedures

- Safety equipment

- Emergency response

- Customer focus

- Equipment maintenance and inspection

- Operational instructions

- Communications

- Security

- Site inspection where appropriate.

Each question must be answered with yes, no, or not applicable. The answers are based on information provided by the service provider and objective evidence seen by the assessor. Companies can apply their own company-specific weighting factors when evaluating the SQAS results.

For certain SQAS packages, there are questions for which the aspects of safety and health, care for the environment, and quality are considered separately.

For more information on the program, visit the CEFIC web site at www.cefic.org.

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